The day I read on BBC News about Nigerian First Lady Aisha Buhari criticizing her husband in public, my first thought was the the book of Esther in the bible, particularly Queen Vashti. Whist in an interview to BBC, Aisha threatened that she would not back her husband the president in the next election unless he shook up his government. Mr Muhammadu Buhari then responded by saying his wife belonged to the kitchen and the other room. The story certainly got the world talking.
I don’t really understand the political situation in Nigeria, but from the little I have grasped, the first lady is not happy with how her husband is running the country, especially the people in his government. When she openly criticized him, she was seen as a true feminist not only in Nigeria but across the world. When the president retaliated by telling her that her place belonged in the kitchen, the world was shocked by his sexist remarks and there was an uproar.
One thing that Aisha has taught the world, especially women is that if your husband is doing something you do not agree with, especially when it comes to his judgement, ethics and principles, it is very acceptable to openly denounce him. Be bold to speak your mind.
As I said before, this took me back to Queen Vashiti. She was a beautiful strong willed woman who was not happy with how the King was ruling. During that era it was unheard of for a woman to disobey her husband in public. So when the King asked her to come and join him at the royal banquet in front of all the high officials and she publicly declined, it was the ultimate humiliation for him. The King then chose to set an example to every woman that no woman would publicly humiliate her husband and get away with it, for that Queen Vashti was dethroned.
One thing I admire about Queen Vashti is that, this was a sacrifice she was willing to take. Just like Aisha, she was a true feminist of her generation. She had the women in her heart, choosing to host her own banquet for the women whilst her husband hosted the state banquet. This is exactly what Aisha has done. She has chosen to publicly denounce the state banquet being hosted by her husband. In her I see a strong willed woman, driven by her desire to serve the people. I see a woman who is not satisfied by just being the First Lady. I see a woman who is not happy to just stand next to her husband, but she wants to make a stand on her own and have her own impact to the society.
I certainly do not blame Mr Buhari for retaliating the way he did. As a man, the President for that matter, his ego was badly bruised. He is the most powerful man in Nigeria, yet he has been publicly belittled for his poor judgement by his own wife. He had to come out and throw his own punch, he was simply telling us, “hey, she’s my wife, she belongs in my bed, in my bedroom! Don’t you all forget that”.
To an extent I do agree with Mr President. She also belongs in all the rooms he mentioned. She is his wife. He was right to say he doesn’t know what party she belongs to, because right now politically, they are not in agreement. But one party that he is sure she belongs to is his kitchen, lounge and bedroom. I am sure he knows how capable and intelligent his wife is outside the kitchen, but he was trying to emphasize the point that his wife should prioritize between winning the hearts of the people or winning his heart.
Now as much as I admire Aisha Buhari as a strong woman with influence and courage, even against her own husband, I have another woman I admire more. When Queen Vashiti was dethroned, a more powerful unlikely woman replaced her. Queen Esther.
Sometimes in life as women we fail to understand that our beauty and womanhood is enough power to change a man’s heart, whether he is a King or Butler. Queen Esther came with more grace, more wisdom and more power than Queen Vashiti. The King was still the same man. He had very bad people in his cabinet, one was Haman who influenced him to kill the whole nation of Jews. Queen Esther, knowing that her own husband was making bad decisions against innocent people, she did not go publicly to expose him or fight his decisions.
Esther chose to win the King’s favor, and she did it in a very brave way. After she won her husband’s heart, she was able to make him change his mind about killing the Jews. Queen Esther was able to influence change by being one with her husband. I personally do not believe in publicly humiliating your husband, no matter how bad he is. I do not believe in exposing your husband’s weakness to the world. According to God you are one flesh. So by publicly humiliating your husband, you are humiliating yourself too. You may gain support from the world, but you will have destroyed your house with your own hands. As the bible says, a house divided against itself can never stand.
The other room that Mr Buhari said his wife belonged is the most important room in a marriage. This is the most intimate room between man and wife, and in that room a woman has all the power to convince her husband. In that room First Lady Aisha could have changed her husband’s heart. For it was in that room Queen Esther was told by the King that she could have whatever she wanted, politically. In the end she had more than what she ever asked for. There was even a national holiday dedicated to her. She also managed to get her own Uncle to be the second most powerful man in the land, the highest position after the King.
In conclusion, as much as I have great admiration for Aisha Buhari, I would rather she was a Queen Esther than a Queen Vashiti. Both these women were very unsatisfied and unhappy about how their husband ruled the land, but they approached the problem differently. The one who proved to be wiser was Queen Esther, because in the end she was able to change the heart of the King, thus saving her people. She was a wise first lady, sometimes the answer is not always in feminism.